Saturday, September 17, 2016

Musings of a "Newly Wife"

It's quiet in our tiny household tonight as I sit with the comforting light of my laptop -- as I  have so many nights before. It has only been three months since I slipped comfortably into a new normal and sometimes, the new normal still startles me.

To explain marriage is quite dumbfounding because all I can ever describe it as is just how I read it from the editorial page of a worn out Candy Magazine I've had as a "tweener": it's like putting on a pair of jeans in a fitting room and you instantly know that you're going to buy it. Marriage fits in just like an old shoe yet it's so dramatically new that having to infuse the two thoughts together can be overwhelming at times.

Ever since I got married, people have been asking me so much about it. Questions that were once about having a boyfriend was now centered on what it was like to be married. Others who are still shocked to note that I actually had a boyfriend and the "quickness" of my marriage (no baby bump here!) seem to ask me questions a mile a minute. The questions aren't surprising actually but my candidness about them is. You see I am an oversharer (as you can tell, there are ten years worth of oversharing on this website alone) but with this part of my life-- I remain just like a cocoon, hidden and without intention of going out just yet. I believe God has the perfect timing for our story but until then, I could never describe how God miraculously crafted our love story other than the fact that He is good.

What's amazing to me though is the fact that people barely ask me about the other areas of my life since I changed my last name (actually hyphenated my last name, I refuse to have my married name take over my dad's name, nope, not ever). You see, yes, I am a married woman but I am still as tenacious as I have ever been.

It took me three months to solidify what I already know -- I am an independent woman who have worked so hard to take care of myself all these years and having a partner doesn't change any of that. I am still as ambitious as I ever was (even more so now, as if to tell people that marriage should never slow you down) but I must admit that in the past three months, I try to be more mindful of that ambition.

Life doesn't revolve around work anymore and somehow, after years of trying to be taught this, I have learned to develop a thick skin for the workplace. Now that doesn't mean that I don't work with all my heart because I do but I try to detach myself from it and realize that people have interests of their own and some are ruthless and do anything to achieve their own personal goals. That's really just the way the world works so I've learned to deal with it.

I am trying hard not to lose the best parts of myself in the rat race but the growth and the steep learning curve can take its toll. My temper needs to be dealt with because it is on an unnatural high since I switched from PR to Accounts earlier this year and it needs to be tamed. God's sweet grace is really all that is keeping me sane on some days.

Bravery also seeps through in different forms -- bravery doesn't mean sticking out a knife. Sometimes, it is a simple as going to work everyday, rolling up your sleeves, and facing whatever needs to be faced. Sometimes they are overly ambitious workmates, piling bills, or even the monstrosity of having to face your own decisions.

Without meaning to sound like a cliche, I am learning more and more that life rarely turns out to be the way you've planned it in your head. For the most part, I have tried to make it the way I've always thought of in my head but the life that I have now, with all its exciting parts, is what God wills for me to have at this point and so I surrender.

Surrendering at different life stages can mean different things. At this point, surrendering is really just letting God take over in a way that I haven't fully experienced before. It's setting aside things I have learned over the years, unlearning them in order to give way to ideals that I haven't even entertained before.

It's about relearning my own definition of success, failure, and life in general. It's realizing that God is the one who ultimately plies our path and in slowly letting go of notions of how life should be, we come across the gift of contentment. We thank God in the midst of deadlines, bill payments, and not so sweet workmates. We learn to thank God for the little messes in our lives and we no longer wait for life to be perfect to offer sweet praise. In fact, it's the little victories that are celebrated the most -- getting up in the morning when all you want to do is run away, letting love win when an argument wants to take over, and most importantly, believing that there are better days ahead even when life has given you a series of bad ones.

It's knowing and believing that every season has a purpose and while as human beings, it is only normal to crave for the days past and the days ahead, we realize that what we truly possess is today so we learn to let go and believe that today is enough, this moment is enough, and then that is when we try again.

And that is when we win.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

What I Learned from Kissing Dating Goodbye at 13


It was the year of Britney Spears, Nsync, and Dawson's Creek. The beginning of the millenial and I was a 12 year old fully living "life" with music blasting in my ears from my discman while decked in neon colors. I was the kid in between the 90s and the early 00s and while a lot of events and personality defined my generation, what defined me the most was a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Unknown to many, I was placed in an outrageous grade school located in one of the country's most upscale villages. At a young age, I was exposed to the extravagances of life because of rich classmates. There was an excess of everything and yes, that included dating. My parents knew this wasn't a conducive environment to grow up in and so they did what no 12 year old wanted: pluck me out of my comfort zone and placed in a Christian education system that involved working on PACES and chapel services. If my former environment was excessive, this environment could be noted as oppressive. 

And though I resisted it at the beginning, I grew to love it because it helped me discover God. And even as a "rebellious" 12 year old, my relationship with Him has always been the most comforting aspect of my life. 

I was 12 when I was first introduced to the book by Joshua Harris, the Christian cult favorite, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I recall seeing it being carried around by a popular upperclassmen and so being the crowd follower that I was, I begged my mom for a copy, not knowing it would affect my perspective and how I approached dating for the most of my adult life.

The book, which I religiously read and reread from the time I first picked it up when I was 13 up until I was 25 spoke about keeping one's self pure with chapters like why window shop if you're not going to buy. In my impressionable young mind, it made sense: to skip the dating part and the rejection and wait for "God's best". 

The author's intention may have been simple: to spend our 'single' years cultivating all parts of our lives instead of just one and to avoid unnecessary heartbreak by not placing our worth in relationships and so on. In retrospect and as an adult, I do understand that. Today, I understand that real happiness and security cannot be found in anything apart from Jesus Christ. 

However, as an impressionable teenager, the book seemed like a rule book with the promise that if you follow all the rules (i.e.: not dating, devoting all time to "Bible Studies", not having crushes, not sleeping around etc) you will get "God's best". However, "God's best" was never defined so it was relative. Somehow, God's best always meant someone "perfect", someone who would never "hurt" me, and the complete package.

It spoke about the rules but it never spoke about the process of real life relationships and since the book speaks about "intentional" dating, hanging out with another was never an option. Getting to know people was suddenly pressuring because you only "dated" who you intended to marry (hey, even at 26 you never truly know who you want to marry). 

Mr. Harris' intention of retooling the focus to God was suddenly overtaken by everyone's desire to "do it right", so while he discouraged "crushes" and so on, the obsession with the rules kept relationships as still the main focus instead of other things.

In a way and based on observation alone, this culture has raised (and this may be a tough pill to swallow because I swallowed it myself") a bunch of entitled Christian women who because they have "waited" for so long and kept their "purity" that they deserved perfect Christian men more than women who didn't. It raised women who are expecting too much from men and who saw everyone else with judgmental eyes. 

It propagated a culture of, "hey why did she get that relationship when I've been wilting away for so long here" and sadly enough, a culture of slut shaming that comes from a sense of entitlement.

The book, with all of its good intentions, created a culture that put self first instead of God. It heightened the culture of "me" and "what I am doing" vs. what the world is doing as opposed to what God is doing in me and through me by the power of His grace. It retooled the focus on legalism instead of grace.

It was keeping score and thinking that if I followed all the rules indicated, I will marry the perfect man of my dreams that doesn't exist in the whole entire universe. It made up for a Christian fairytale, a narrative comparable to that of Disney's, only tweaked slightly to make it holier. For the longest time, I have been hidden in my own shame whenever I didn't follow my chosen rule book and felt prideful when I found others who did "worse" things than I did. I was a legalistic person who followed the rules, I was no fun and most importantly, I wasn't happy. 

It was as if I held specific parts of my life in my hands, that if I did what I was told and if I kept myself pure, life will be perfect. It completely takes God out of the equation -- when He should have been the focus all along. It made me discontented with the life I had because the "sacrifices" and "effort" I put into being pure wasn't being reciprocated by life. Just a year ago, I had a "rebellious" phase because I felt like God wasn't rewarding me for all the things I worked hard for.

I was the Christian Regina George and it wasn't pretty. 

Anything that takes me away from focusing on God is an idol -- even if the intention is in 'pleasing' him. I was an extremely polished and perfect from the outside -- I was prideful in thinking that I deserved the best simply because I was doing all that I could to remain 'holy' when in truth, because of what Jesus did, I am already perfect, not because of anything I did, didn't do, or about to do but because of what God did for me through Jesus. 

It was constantly looking over my shoulder, afraid that every step would take it away from the "grand" plan but in reality, the grand plan has already been finished -- I have been saved by grace and I have been given the best life that didn't need my manipulation. 

The past year, though appearing perfect to some, has challenged me and what I have believed in for so long and writing this has helped me revisit the person I used to be -- controlling, insecure, and constantly on the go in an effort to please. What was meant to help my walk with God has turned me into the person so devoid of life.

After reaching the end of my rope, I have learned to revisit my relationship with God and appreciating His grace even more. Because at the end of the day, as Andrew Farley would say, it's Jesus plus nothing and with Him, there are no rules, I am just loved, period.


"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." - Romans 11:6 





Tuesday, August 23, 2016

God of the Small Spaces


It is a Tuesday afternoon and in an hour or so, I will be heading home to rest for a few hours before the grind starts up yet again. Life has passed by swiftly in the past three months, the biggest of which is getting married to the love of my life and starting a new job that I have longed prayed for.

Most people (often the ones outside of the "bubble") would refer to this time as a "glorious" time. I used to watch women get engaged and land their dream jobs and I would often feel a pinch of envy for them because their lives were finally falling into place.

But in reality, there is really no such thing. Life is life, no matter what season you are in. Of course, you strive to be thankful for the answered prayers, but there are days when it is hard to do because you're pressured, you're busy, and you're just irritated. 

But He is the God of my small spaces and I long to meet Him no matter how small of a space it is.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What are you surviving?

It happens to the best of us. We often get consumed by the mess of our own lives without realizing that there is a much bigger world out there with problems we can't even imagine. This is not minimizing the pain our own troubles has caused us because nobody can tell us how to feel or how "small" or "big" the results of it are.

However, we can be reminded that while we may feel isolated in our problems, we are not the only ones having them. Often, the person you work with, the kuya guard who opens the door for you, and even the wildly successful rich girl all have problems and the best we can do is to be kind to ourselves and others because we are all surviving together.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Opportunities


Opportunities.

It has been said that to be at the right time at exactly the right time with the right people requires a different kind of favor, that of which that comes from God. Ever since I started working, I have always prayed to God to open the right doors for me and close the wrong ones simply because making a choice always left me scared.

So my life's choices have been quite simple: walk into the open doors simply because the wrong doors are closed shut. This has also been true in other parts of my life. I've always had blind faith that God will provide the right people and the right opportunities at the right time.

However, closed doors are not always accepted with a kind and gracious heart. In the past week alone, I have had two opportunities shut in front of my face without warning. They were already projects that were raring to go, projects that I have waited for my entire life, and just when they were going to jump start, they went kaput.

It left me tossing and turning over the weekend. How could these opportunities slip from my fingers? Was it something I did? Is there something else that I could have done better?

But in all my asking, I stopped for a minute and tried to figure out what it was that God was telling me. It has been a season of blessings and challenges, just pretty much like any season of life. And as in anything, the blessings don't negate the challenges but in all times, we must learn to rest and let God take over.

I may never have an answer as to why the opportunities were taken out of my hands but I still firmly believe that God has the perfect timing for all things. I grieve for the lost opportunities but I am also thankful for moments I have to myself, something much needed right now.

So for today, I weep and let it go. And then tomorrow, I pray for new opportunities to come my way.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

7:34 PM




As I write this, Gwen Stefani's Cool plays repeatedly in my ears and for the first time in a long time, there is a sense of calm and quiet as I clank away on my computer unaffected by the many worries of life.

To say that it has been a busy couple of months would be an understatement. In the past year alone, I have traveled to more than three cities (not that big of a deal for today's millenials but a pretty rad deal for a twenty something with a 9-5), had my first relationship, had my heart broken, lost friends, regained them, switched jobs, fell in love with the one who was meant to be my first, got engaged, got married, paid off debts, and most importantly, discovered myself, my faith in a way I wouldn't have if all of those things didn't happen.

My life prior to August 2015 was uneventful. I was known to stick within the lines delicately refusing to do anything beyond what was expected of me. It led me to the life I've always wanted (or so I thought) but I lacked depth on the inside. I was a Stepford wife minus the wife title and I was drowning without me knowing.

I was lost and confused but the best part was that I didn't know that I was. I thought I knew what I was doing but I didn't. 

You've heard the story and here I am, a year later with quite a different life from what I imagined. People used to tell me that life doesn't quite turn out the way that we planned it and I always refused to believe them until I look at my life today.

My life at 28 is radically different from what I expected it to be. And while there are days where I question it, I have learned not to. God, as often reminded by my brother, doesn't give us what we think we want but blesses us with what is necessary.

I still don't know where life would lead next but through all of it I have come to realize that no matter what life throws our way, we ultimately have the power to overcome all things and in realizing this, we get to enjoy life outside of our box and move forward in faith knowing that our courage is enough.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sino ang good girl?

 For the longest time, I have always prided myself in being the good girl.

As a competitive child, I made sure to always finish my seatwork on time, keep quiet when the teacher isn’t looking, and keep my desk neat at all times. I was the perennial “yes” girl and for years that was a label that I quietly hid behind. My story of being a people pleaser is no longer news to patient readers of this blog, however, the revelation to me has taken quite a journey before it fully sunk in.

In a way, I’ve always kept quite a scorecard of my life. The good things happened when I was good (keeping my heart “pure”, keeping Bible studies in check, and making sure I was “nice” to everyone I met) and the bad things can be negated by doing good things. Yes, I believed in God but I never quite threw away the need to “do good” in order to “deserve good”. Despite preaching on grace for so long, I was holding on to a lie: life would only be majestic if I learned to keep it together.

The journey to the unraveling of this truth began in the summer of 2015, most of the journey you can find here, however, the culmination of its lesson (or lessons rather) is one that I am still learning to this day. For the longest time, I thought being “good” and relying on the promises that were taught to me from the day I was young would give me the excellent, fairytale life I have always  wanted.

It wasn’t until several incidents in the past year jolted me out of a fake reality that I created for myself. I found myself on the floor so many times, sobbing, and wondering what I did wrong. Up until recently, I couldn’t understand why life was being ridiculously unfair to someone who did everything “right”. 

Of course, during this point, I was speaking from a place of pride – of course from the outside, it seemed like I was perfect because I was doing everything right, but we all know that to God, the outside didn’t matter, all that mattered was what was on the inside – what was lurking in the deepest recesses of my heart.

My heart, as I have discovered (and continue to do so on this day), is a dark, murky place. Recent events have showed me just how deceitful, conniving, and manipulative my heart really is. God revealed to me just how much evil is in my heart and while I was surprised, I was also humbled, humbled enough to learn the lessons God has been teaching me all these years.

The past year has brought me to my knees so many times and in the pit, I found myself, for the first time in my life, ashamed and broken. There were no accolades to hold me up, no good deeds to negate the bad, and most importantly, no face to show God. Just like Adam and Eve, I was hiding in the shadows but for the first time in my life, I never felt God as closely as I did in the past couple of weeks.

As my heart broke and my real self was exposed, I found myself closer to Jesus, my savior. It wasn’t a magical moment but it was one that was real in a sense that I felt the truth of His love for me. God’s unconditional love is real because as I sat in the depths of my mistakes, God pulled me closer instead of further and in it, I heal.

As I discovered the true state of my heart, I have realized the true beauty of the grace of God. Growing up a church girl has made me forget the beauty of grace because I thought I was doing everything perfectly without realizing that my legalistic nature has made me unforgiving, hard, and unloving. I was doing good works but in the back of my head, I was judging everyone who did not fit neatly into the package of perfection that I have aimed for my entire life.

Today, I find myself more relaxed and less stiff. For years, I was projecting an image but today, I can look at myself in the mirror and smile genuinely because through the cracks of my brokenness, I can see God’s grace shine and in Him, I find the kind of confidence I never quite felt before and now, the journey begins again.